Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Although canned foods were commercially available in America as early as the 1820s, for many years canned foods were considered tasteless at best, and potentially hazardous at worst. Cooks who did use canned foods were often criticized as being lazy. By the 1930s, however, that reputation had completely reversed, as canning technology improved and efficiency and economy were prized. Cheaper canned goods brought expensive foods such as pineapple within the reach of ordinary Americans. The Good Housekeeping Institute promoted canned foods in quick dishes to make for company, such as in this 1933 recipe for pineapple upside down cake.

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Oatmeal Macaroons

This super quick, super easy recipe comes from War Economy in Food, a recipe booklet published by the U.S. Food Administration during World War I. The macaroons use oats and corn syrup to reduce the amounts of wheat and sugar used. In addition to saving wheat and sugar, the recipe also saves on time and dishwashing – it only uses one bowl, and only takes about 20-25 minutes from start to finish!

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War Bread

From The Economical War-Time Cook Book, this recipe was designed to save white flour during World War I, substituting rye, wheat, and cornmeal instead. Although the United States never had official rationing during the first World War, Americans were still urged not to waste food, especially wheat, meats, fats, and sugar. Corn, “the food of the nation,” was promoted in particular as an economical alternative to flour.

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Sponge-Cake Pudding

Victorian cooks hated to waste food, and had all sorts of creative ways to use up leftovers. This super simple one-sentence recipe is an excellent way to use up leftover sponge cake (or, in my case, to use up a failed pound cake that didn’t rise properly. It’s not a failure if you can turn it into something else!). It works on the same principle as a custard-based bread pudding, just using cake instead of bread.

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Pistachio Cream

“Creams” were a popular 18th century dessert, similar to a custard or flummery. Nearly every 18th century cookbook I’ve seen contains at least a few recipes for different flavors of cream. This pistachio-flavored version comes from the cookbook of John Farley, who was the head cook at the London Tavern, a popular tavern and meeting place during the 18th and 19th centuries.

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